All He Can Be

After a bitter separation from Special Olympics, a Lewisville father keeps pushing his Unique Athletes

Fleming makes no apologies for that, but he says he has learned a lesson from his time in the Special Olympics.

"What we do isn't for everyone, just like Special Olympics and AAU basketball aren't for everyone," Fleming says. "I'm upfront with people. I say, 'Your son's going to be yelled at. Your child is going to give me effort, and that's what I demand.' If they give the effort the rest will come."

Fleming is now looking forward to a second golf tournament and setting up programs for other sports, including basketball and snow skiing. Today, Fleming says he has moved on and has no desire to participate in Special Olympics again. He says his philosophy is at odds with the organization, which stresses participation and sportsmanship over winning.

Steven Fleming walks the Lake Park Golf Course with a participant in his program.
Grace Photography
Steven Fleming walks the Lake Park Golf Course with a participant in his program.

Fleming has no problem with teaching the importance of participation or sportsmanship—in fact he says he heavily stressed both as a coach—but he says the Special Olympics is selling some kids short by not expecting more out of them.

"My belief is that a child will rise to the level of his or her expectations," he says. "My son, despite his disabilities, is as close to a normal child as I've seen. It's by the grace of God, but it's also because of a father who treated him like he was normal."

As for the Lewisville Special Olympics delegation, the members there say they are doing just fine without Fleming. That's fine with him, he says, because he has moved on as well.

"A lot of people don't understand what I'm trying to do, and that's fine," he says. "I think unless you've had a child with special needs it's hard to understand. I'm just trying to prepare my son for when he has to go out on his own, and right now he's prepared to do that. That's my job as a father, and as long as I've done that, I feel like I've done my job."

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